1. Pronghorn (Nicklaus), Bend, Ore.
While its Fazio sibling remains private, this 2004 Jack Nicklaus creation alone is worth the journey, thanks to Bend's perfect arid summer climate on the sunny side of the Cascade Mountains, flawless conditions and holes—such as the par-4 13th—that boomerang around water. Its 151 slope from the 7,379-yard tips could intimidate a Tour pro, but the 3,200-foot elevation will help shorten the ride.
2. Dormie Club, West End, N.C.
Because of multiple ownership squabbles, this Pinehurst-area course has suffered from an identity crisis. It's private! Wait, it's public! Wait...is it even open? That's a shame, because this two-year-old Coore/Crenshaw design is a worthy addition to any Pinehurst trip, with its hilly terrain, firm conditions, challenging carries over wetlands and, most impressively, its beguiling green complexes.
3. Ballamor, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
New Jersey’s fourth-ranked public course was private until 2010, but this 11-year-old Jersey Shore product has more natural (and artificial) attributes than Snooki and J-Woww combined. Bold bunkers, multi-level greens and a strong trio of closing holes make this Ault, Clark & Associates product worth braving Friday traffic to go down and play.
4. Seven Canyons, Sedona, Ariz.
Serving up some of the most impressive panoramas in golf is this 2002 Tom Weiskopf design surrounded in every direction by red rock spires and outcroppings. The drum-tight, 6,746-yard par-70 layout is a throwback, and layups off the tee are frustratingly common. But given the incomparable setting, it's easily forgiven.
5. Quintero, Peoria, Ariz.
Back in 2000 the economy was humming, so big things were expected when Rees Jones opened what was called the Founders course—with a Greg Norman layout to follow. The Norman 18 never appeared, and the real estate boom never reached northwest Phoenix, so last year this lush, topsy-turvy desert design—with its thrilling drop-shot par 3s—opened its doors.
6. Stone Canyon, Independence, Mo.
Greg Norman sprinkled this three-year-old layout with his typical design touches, including attractive, tattered-edge bunkers and shaved green surrounds, but the real star is the setting, where rock walls and stone outcroppings are integrated into the layout. Most memorable is the 381-yard, par-4 3rd, which concludes with a green in an amphitheater of rocks.
7. The Prairie Club (Dunes), Valentine, Neb.
The wind never stops howling across this Tom Lehman/Chris Brands–designed prairie links, but wide, brick-hard fairways afford you a fun-filled round big on strategy. Tip: Beware the gigantic blowout bunkers that pepper the acreage. Once completely private, the Dunes alternates daily as public-access with its Pines sibling.
(Editor's Note: A previous version of this story listed Victory Ranch in Kamas, Utah. The club is now under new ownership and is no longer accepting public play.)